Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- President Obama's anti-oil cap-and-trade legislation that will effectively levy a carbon-emissions tax on businesses and on all Americans will likely be one of the first casualties of his liberal agenda.

But its Republican opponents won't kill it. A growing army of Democratic lawmakers, largely from the Midwest where that segment of the economy is heavily dependent on coal-fired power plants and factories, are turning against it -- perhaps enough to prevent his climate-change plan from even reaching a vote in Congress.

"It is gradually dawning on Washington that cap-and-trade legislation won't pass anytime soon -- certainly not this year, and probably not next year either," writes William Galston, former chief domestic policy adviser in the Clinton White House.

No region of the country has been hit harder in this recession than the Midwest, and cap-and-trade would deal it a second body blow. "It is hard to imagine Midwest Democrats voting for cap-and-trade in current economic circumstances, and perhaps not in any economic circumstances," Galston wrote on The New Republic's Web site last week.

Recent polls show that Americans are now much more willing to put environmental initiatives on the back burner if they would undermine or impede economic growth.

For the first time in the Gallup Poll's history of asking Americans "about the trade-off between environmental protection and economic growth, a (51 percent) majority of Americans say economic growth should be given priority, even if the environment suffers to some extent," the polling organization reported last week.

The controversial cap-and-trade system for auctioning permits to emit greenhouse gases was spawned by the global-warming movement to impose draconian, government-mandated costs on the use of fossil fuels to pay for research into alternative-energy technology.

The administration is counting on the $629 billion in revenues from cap-and-trade to not only pay for this research that is years in the making but also to pay for Obama's middle-class tax cuts after 2010.

Supporters still insist that the cap-and-trade system is not a tax cut but a pricing mechanism for emission permits -- don't believe it. This is how Rep. John B. Larson of Connecticut, House Democratic Caucus chairman, put it during a Ways and Means Trade subcommittee hearing last week on the climate-change legislation:

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.